Anti-gay forces file briefs with Wisconsin, U.S. Supreme Courts

On Jan. 22, the day after Barack Obama’s bold inaugural call for broader equality, right-wing factions filed anti-gay briefs with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.

At the federal level, proponents of California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 amendment that bars same-sex marriage in the state, asked the high court to rule that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and amendments against gay marriage are constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hold arguments in March on the Prop 8 case, as well as a federal case challenging the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. A decision from the court is expected in late June.

Prop 8 proponents, defending the California constitutional amendment, stated in their brief, “That same-sex relationships are not recognized as marriages does not reflect a public judgment that individuals in such relationships are 'inferior' or 'of lesser worth as a class, but simply the fact that such relationships do not implicate society's interest in responsible procreation in the same way that opposite-sex relationships do.”

In another brief, Republican leaders in the U.S. House — Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — are defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of gay marriages. The brief said, “Judicially constitutionalizing the issue of same-sex marriage is unwarranted as a matter of sound social and political policy while the American people are so actively engaged in working through this issue for themselves.”

Opponents of Prop 8 and DOMA are expected to file their briefs in the next month.

Some LGBT civil rights leaders have said that the president’s inaugural call for marriage equality was a message to the justices.

The president, speaking outside the Capitol on Jan. 21, said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

In Wisconsin on Jan. 22, the Alliance Defending Freedom asked the state Supreme Court to decide whether Wisconsin’s law recognizing same-sex couples as domestic partners violates the state constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

At the end of the year, a state appellate court upheld a lower court’s finding that the partnership law can stand.

The appellate judges affirmed a lower-court ruling that the partnership law does not violate the 2006 amendment because “... it would ‘take pages’ to list the rights and obligations that go with marriages but not domestic partnerships. …It is not necessary to list that many here to demonstrate that ... the rights and obligations of marriage are not substantially similar to the rights and obligations of domestic partnerships.”

At the time, Lambda Legal attorney Christopher Clark said, “The court has affirmed what we have maintained all along – it is ridiculous to suggest that a domestic partnership law could be considered anything closely resembling a marriage for purposes of state law.

“In fact, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments as ‘nonsense.’ We fought off this ugly attack against the rights and protections currently available to same-sex couples and their families in Wisconsin – a sweet holiday present to loving couples and families.”

Almost immediately opponents vowed to take their case, Appling v. Doyle, to the state Supreme Court or, rather, back to the appeals court.

“The lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman is the foundation of every healthy, stable society. The people of Wisconsin recognize this, and that is why they approved a constitutional amendment that specifically protects marriage from all imitators,” said ADF attorney Austin R. Nimocks. “We are appealing the appellate court’s decision because this domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the voters intended to prevent.”

The ADF, representing the ultra-right Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling, maintains that the partnership law is in conflict with the state constitutional amendment, approved by voters in November 2006, that says, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

Appling, in a news release on Jan. 22, said, “The people of Wisconsin believe that marriage is the one and only relationship that is absolutely essential to the future of humanity. Their will, as very clearly expressed in the marriage amendment, ought to be respected.”

Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin, which is working with Lambda Legal to defend the domestic partnership law in court, said, "It is disappointing that the plaintiffs and the Alliance Defending Freedom are continuing their efforts to take away important legal protections from same-sex couples and their families. But, Fair Wisconsin, Lambda Legal and the domestic partners who have intervened in this case remain committed to defending the domestic partnership law. We look forward to presenting our arguments to the Wisconsin Supreme Court."

Jason Burns of Equality Wisconsin, which like Fair Wisconsin advocates statewide for LGBT equality, said, "We are deeply disturbed that the Alliance for Defending Freedom is continuing to pursue an avenue that would result in the repeal of the domestic partner registry. Wisconsin is lucky to have organizations like Fair Wisconsin and Lambda Legal to take the lead in defending the basic freedoms of committed LGBT Couples. While Equality Wisconsin is not a part of the lawsuit we support their efforts and are we are willing to assist in anyway we can."

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